Back to All Events

Rooftop Cinema: Kamikaze '89

  • Madison Museum of Contemporary Art 227 State Street Madison, WI, 53703 United States (map)

In summers past, MMoCA's Rooftop Cinema series has often showcased short film collections under the umbrella of lesser-known experimental animators or directors. However, its 12th season turns a relevant eye to immersive feature-length dystopian futures, ...'cause there's no time like the present (which is rapidly turning into one). Amid a global economic recession and, nationally speaking, the philosophy of Reaganomics, the 1980s experienced a great boom of gritty prospective fiction. These films imagined totalitarian regimes in utter control of the media, and successfully merged oppressive, brutalist aesthetics with the broodingly intimate and suave elements of film noir. Released the same year as Blade Runner, Wolf Gremm's Kamikaze '89 (1982) is perhaps a bit of an anomaly in that canon. It's a wacky low-budget conspiratorial cyberpunk thriller starring wunderkind Rainer Werner Fassbinder as Lieutenant Jansen. Dressed to the nines in a garish leopard-print suit, his scruffy yet slick demeanor might recall stoic secret agent Lemmy Caution in Godard's Alphaville (1965) or the oddball Doc Sportello in Pynchon's novel Inherent Vice (which Paul Thomas Anderson adapted into a 2014 film), which also proves true for the winding plot involving a string of bombings at a high-rise in a futuristic West Germany. Gremm hired Edgar Froese of Tangerine Dream to compose the spacey synthesizer and sequencer pulses, which underscore Jansen's escalating encounters with the absurd. Series co-curator Mike King will be projecting the film in a new digital restoration by Film Movement. —Grant Phipps